Through Our Lens

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Through Our Lens
Through Our Lens
Through Our Lens C19 Project

Through Our Lens – Self Isolation Project was set up by artist and photographer Carolyn Mendelsohn in April 2020 as a response to the Covid19 pandemic, at the start of the first lockdown . After receiving funding by a Response grant from Bradford Council, Carolyn called out to young people in the Bradford District aged 12-20 to work with her to tell their story of this time. This project took place online on Zoom, where Carolyn ran workshops, master classes, set briefs and mentored each of the young participants. Many had never taken a photograph before, but all were familiar with their mobile devices.

“I wanted to find out about the stories our teenagers have. They certainly weren’t visible at that point. I wanted to work with teenagers to enable them to tell their stories and record their experiences through photography, and other creative forms. It was important to me that they didn’t need to have any previous experience. That they didn’t need a ‘proper camera’, they could use their phone or any mobile device. I would work with weekly, via a video conferencing platform. I would run workshops, mentor them, and really aim for them to create work that truly belonged to them, and had their authentic voice, and guide them in the process.” – Carolyn Mendelsohn

The project and the photographs and voices of these young people from Bradford led to international interest at what was a very challenging time. Their photographic work was featured on BBC Breakfast, BBC News, Huffington Post, The Correspondent, The Guardian and press and media across the world.

The project gained partners across the cultural sector in Bradford, including Impressions Gallery (who supported and exhibited the work, The Science and Media Museum, Bradford Council, Bradford College and Bradford Museums and Galleries.

Through Our Lens – Our World

This Through Our Lens Satellite project explored the what was the world like through the eyes of six to eleven year olds during the third national Covid lockdown.

From February to April 2021, Carolyn Mendelsohn ran a series of photography and mentoring workshops over Zoom, to enable a group of children from across the Bradford district to tell us their stories through photography. The pictures you see here are a snapshot of their experiences and their incredible work. Over the course of eight weeks, the children were given a series of new challenges and practical photo tasks to do and briefs to do between sessions.

While Our World gave the participants the opportunity to learn good basic camera skills and a better understanding of photography, it was much more than just a creative activity. Having a new interest during home learning and lockdown was positive for the children’s wellbeing. All have talked about the new friendships they have made with others of different ages, and all have said how much they enjoyed sharing their photographs with each other.

The work created as a result of this satellite project was published in a dedicated zine, and exhibited in the Garden Gallery at Cartwright Hall, Bradford. A selection of the photographs have been featured in the exhibition Through Our Lens: Growing Up with Covid 19, at Impressions Gallery. Our World was a special project run by Through Our Lens, led by Carolyn Mendelsohn, assisted by Phoebe Cookson and Holly Wade, two participants from the original Through Our Lens group. The project was made possible by Response 2 Arts Grant from Bradford Council.

Exhibitions of the work

Our Street Gallery

More than 50 stunning photographs taken by the 12 to 19-year olds in isolation for the ‘Through Our Lens’ project, illustrated billboards, sides of houses, pavements, lamp posts, windows and school railings across the Bradford district in the summer and autumn of 2020. The project was selected as the first chapter of Our Street Gallery.

The young people from Through Our Lens worked consulting with the team – designers Aimee Grundell, Lee Goater and Oli Bentley to contribute their thoughts and approve of the final designs.

Impressions Gallery

Major exhibition at Impressions Gallery, Bradford. Through Our Lens: Growing up with Covid 19 – opened on the 4th January to 26th March 2022. Curated in collaboration with the young artists who made the work, the exhibition is both a reflection on a period of adversity as well as a celebration of the resilience, dedication and spirit of a diverse group of young people.

Angela Sheard, Associate Curator at Impressions Gallery says, ‘Reflecting back on almost two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, Through our Lens offers a vital window into how the next generation have adapted and grown through an incredibly challenging time. The photographs in the exhibition are some of the most thoughtful, perceptive and compelling photographic works to emerge from this period, demonstrating a skill beyond age and giving us an exciting insight into the next generation of photographers.’
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